There have been 15 exchanges between Kemi Badenoch and HM Treasury
|Thu 17th September 2020||Support for Self-employed and Freelance Workers||5 interactions (2,032 words)|
|Tue 15th September 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||17 interactions (446 words)|
|Tue 7th July 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||24 interactions (538 words)|
|Thu 18th June 2020||Finance Bill (Tenth sitting) (Public Bill Committees)||9 interactions (1,439 words)|
|Tue 16th June 2020||Finance Bill (Seventh sitting) (Public Bill Committees)||31 interactions (3,448 words)|
|Tue 16th June 2020||Finance Bill (Eighth sitting) (Public Bill Committees)||23 interactions (3,382 words)|
|Thu 4th June 2020||Public Health England Review: Covid-19 Disparities (Urgent Question)||85 interactions (3,821 words)|
|Thu 4th June 2020||Finance Bill (First sitting) (Public Bill Committees)||6 interactions (693 words)|
|Mon 18th May 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||8 interactions (173 words)|
|Thu 31st January 2019||Equitable Life||5 interactions (82 words)|
|Tue 6th November 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||5 interactions (66 words)|
|Tue 27th March 2018||Digital Taxation (Westminster Hall)||3 interactions (669 words)|
|Wed 21st February 2018||Finance (No. 2) Bill||7 interactions (97 words)|
|Tue 23rd January 2018||Trade Bill (Second sitting) (Public Bill Committees)||3 interactions (700 words)|
|Tue 18th July 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||5 interactions (79 words)|
That is absolutely true. One of the things I find most worrying about the trends we have seen is that—as if the inequality that has gripped this country was not bad enough entering the crisis—there have been two very different experiences of the pandemic. If people are in a job with stable employment and have had money coming in every month, they may well be one of the households who has contributed to a record rise in savings. They may well feel that their outgoings have gone down and that they can start planning for home improvements or a decent family holiday. However, if people have lost their job, or were self-employed or freelance and their business activity went completely down to zero, this has been an absolutely terrible experience. I do not think that any of us, unless we have been in that position, can really understand what those people are going through.
In conclusion, I say to the Minister, whose task in responding to the debate I do not envy—with the notable and honourable exception of the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne), I think she has found herself pretty alone in this debate—that the cross-party calls for the Government to listen, even to meet, are overwhelming. The privilege of being able to govern comes with the responsibility of taking action, of seeing people through difficult times. We know that the Government have a difficult job. We would not have wished this pandemic on anyone, but so many of us on both sides of the House simply do not understand the Chancellor’s intransigence, stubbornness and unwillingness to listen on this issue. So please, I beg the Minister, on behalf of millions of people across this country who have felt unheard or excluded: it is time to act.
I thank all Members who have contributed to this debate and many others who I know wanted to do so, but could not because there was not time. All of us—even the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne)—want to see some changes to the scheme. There is no shame in saying that errors have been made and in trying to rectify them. That is all we are asking the Minister to do, yet I notice that she is still refusing to meet us. That is simply not acceptable.
The Minister says that the Government understand the crucial role that the self-employed play in our economy. No, they do not, otherwise she would not be suggesting that the self-employed just take more loans or they just have universal credit. She said that the Government have not forgotten them. The impression that has been left with people all around the country is that the Government have forgotten them. She says that the Government have not helped them as they would have liked. The Government have not helped this particular group of people at all.
I beg the Minister again. It is not enough to say that she will get a response—a much-delayed response—in writing to these excluded groups. They want a meeting. Why is that so much to ask? What happened to all the rhetoric about levelling up and the warm words about the Government putting their arms around everybody? Why are these people being excluded? Why are our innovators, our entrepreneurs and our risk takers being punished? This is not a party political issue. I am happy to commend the Government for the support they have put in place for the people who have been able to access it, but I want the Minister to acknowledge that some people have not been able to access it and to act now. I ask her again to meet with us.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered support for the self-employed and freelance workers during the covid-19 outbreak.
What financial support he is providing to upgrade the energy efficiency of homes. 
What assessment has my hon. Friend made of the benefits of this ambitious £2 billion scheme for home insulation, and when will my constituents be able to access it to make those improvements to their homes?
Whether he is responsible for the allocation of official development assistance to Government Departments other than the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. 
Break in Debate
What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on sectoral support for manufacturers during the covid-19 outbreak. 
Many of the communities that voted for Conservative MPs for the first time in the recent election rely on our key manufacturing sectors such as aerospace and automotive for jobs. Given that the Government were prepared to create a £3 billion demand stimulus for the housing market, which was not as adversely affected by the pandemic, why will they not do a lot more to protect those jobs and communities with a demand stimulus for aerospace and automotive, which is desperately needed?
If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. 
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Businesses in Rugby and Bulkington have told me universally how they welcome the measures that the Government have introduced for their speed and their breadth, but they know that the coming months will be difficult for trading and there are tough times ahead. Which of the Government’s measures, given limited resources, does the Minister think are the most appropriate to support businesses over the next few months? 
Does the Minister recognise that while the proposed changes to small breweries tax relief may well benefit members of the Small Brewers Duty Reform Coalition, they will work against the interests of fledgling micro-breweries, such as Attic Brew in my constituency? Will the Minister look again at the impact of the changes on those small, but job-creating businesses? 
What fiscal steps he is taking to (a) attract investment and (b) achieve economic growth in northern Lincolnshire. 
I thank the Minister for that. The Treasury is giving considerable support to our area, such as through the Greater Grimsby town deal. We are hoping for favourable designation for freeport status, but the most pressing case at the moment is support for the Able marine energy park in northern Lincolnshire. Modest support from the Treasury could help to create 2,000 jobs. Will the Minister, or indeed the Chancellor, agree to meet me and my hon. Friends the Members for Great Grimsby (Lia Nici), for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) and for Scunthorpe (Holly Mumby-Croft) to deal with this?
What fiscal steps he is taking to improve local transport infrastructure. 
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What assessment he has made of the potential merits of including a four-day working week as part of the Government's covid-19 recovery strategy. 
The Chancellor will have received a letter signed by Members from across the House, including myself, asking him to consider introducing a four-day working week as a way of helping the country recover and creating a better future post-covid-19. So will he commit to the Treasury exploring a four-day working week as part of its economic planning for the recovery? Will he also meet me and other Members to discuss how we can work together to make shorter working times a reality?
What fiscal steps he is taking to support high street businesses affected by the covid-19 outbreak. 
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What fiscal steps he is taking to support the charity sector during the covid-19 outbreak. 
I thank the Minister for that answer and for the support that enabled charities to develop new ways of working during lockdown. Will the Minister outline how this Government’s support has helped my constituents in Stoke-on-Trent Central?
What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on ensuring that businesses in the (a) hospitality and (b) tourism sector receive adequate support during the covid-19 outbreak. 
What fiscal support he is providing to the (a) theatre and (b) entertainment sector during the covid-19 outbreak. 
While hotels, hospitality businesses and holiday parks are reopening in my constituency, many businesses fear that this will be a year of three winters. What support are the Government considering beyond what has been delivered so far? In particular, would the Treasury consider the tourism and hospitality sector’s request to cut VAT to 5% for those businesses?
Like many other Members, I met this morning with ExcludedUK and people such as freelancers, many of whom are in the creative industries, who have fallen between the gaps of the different Government schemes. The package that has been announced for the creative industries is welcome, but what will the Government do to support the many thousands of people in those industries, including in Cardiff South and Penarth, who have fallen between the gaps?
I am concerned by the complacency of the speech that we have just heard from the Exchequer Secretary. I do not think it is sufficient to say that the UK is doing enough to tackle climate change and to meet our net zero ambition when all of the evidence suggests that that is not the case. That reinforces even further the case to run a proper impact assessment on the Bill.
Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.
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I rise to speak to new clause 17 and associate myself with the remarks of the hon. Member for Ilford North, with which I broadly agree and support. We certainly support new clause 5, which chimes with our new clause. We live in a society where it is clear and evident that able-bodied older white men do better than almost everybody else, so what we want to see from the Finance Bill is who benefits from the measures within it and how we know that. We do not know that from how the Government have acted, as they have conducted a very light-touch equality impact assessment on the Budget.
The Women’s Budget Group has produced an excellent briefing, and it calls the Treasury out on failing to publish comprehensive equality impact assessments:
“The only impact assessment relating to protected characteristics in the Budget documents are the Tax Information and Impact Notes (TIINS) produced by HMRC. Only a few measures were recognised to have any equalities impact at all and even here the analysis is cursory, based on limited evidence and with a poor understanding of equality impact…In the absence of a meaningful cumulative equality impact assessment of the budget as a whole it is impossible to judge whether the Treasury has met its obligation under the Public Sector Equality Duty to have ‘due regard’ to equality.”
That is pretty damning on the equality impact assessments that Ministers say they have carried out.
Under the measures assessed as having an equalities impact in the equality impact assessment, the Women’s Budget Group notes that for the lifetime limit for capital gains tax entrepreneurs’ relief, the assessment recognises that
“claimants tend to be older, men, of above-average means, and include individuals who are selling their business or their company’s shares on retirement”,
and does not anticipate an impact on any other groups sharing a protected characteristic, but there is no working to show how the Government arrived at that. There is no further analysis as to why they think that no other groups will be affected. It is one thing to assert that, but the Government have to show their working, and they have not done that.
The Women’s Budget Group also notes that the equality impact assessment states that the measure on pensions tax income thresholds for calculating the tapered annual allowance will impact more on men than on women. The assessment states that it is
“not anticipated that there will be impacts on any other groups sharing protected characteristics”.
However, the Women’s Budget Group points out that the family resources survey could have been used to assess the impact by age, ethnicity, disability and various other characteristics, but that was not done. Again, it is not a full equality impact assessment; it is very light touch.
The WBG also mentions the changes to the disguised remuneration loan charge as referenced in the equality impact assessment. The analysis states that,
“broadly the measure is expected to affect more males than females”,
but that it is
“not anticipated that this measure will have a significant, or disproportionate, impact on groups with protected characteristics”.
However, there is no explanation for that. It might well be true, but we cannot tell because the Government have not shown their working.
The Women’s Budget Group analysis also discusses measures where no equalities impact is identified at all, when it really should have been. I do not want to go into all of these things, because they are multiple, and we would be here all afternoon, but I will touch on the changes to the van benefit charge and fuel benefit charges for cars and vans and the taxable benefits regime for measuring CO2 emissions, which primarily impact on
“individuals who use a company van or car which is available for their private use and/or who are provided with fuel for their private use by their employer”.
Those people are far more likely to be men. We might guess that, or we might anticipate that. The Government’s statistics on driving licences show that in 2018, 81% of men had a driving licence, compared with 70% of women. There are also issues of race, because 62% of people designated as Asian, 52% who are black, and 76% of people who are white have driving licences. That is a clear discrepancy and will have a clear differential effect as to who will or will not benefit from the measures. The Government already have those statistics but have not chosen to do an equalities impact assessment on them. There will be a differential impact because not everyone has a driving licence and those who do have one are predominantly white men.
The Government might want to look at the sectors that would benefit. There may be differences in the types of people who would do jobs with a company car or van. The Government might want to look at those sectors and say, “Actually, there is a disproportionate number of people of a particular background in there.” That has not been done. If we do not count those things we do not know what the impact is. We do not know who benefits and why, or what we can do to make sure that everyone benefits from the measures that the Government propose.
That, I suppose, is just a small example of why the impact assessment is needed. There are clear disparities across society and clear inequalities. If we do not count in the Finance Bill who benefits, why, and what can be done to redress the imbalances that we see in society in front of us, by taxation or other measures, we will never be able to address those inequalities and go to a more equal society.
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That speech was really quite extraordinary and incendiary itself in response to what has been said. We are giving voice to the statistics and the data. Speaking for myself—I imagine this is also true for the SNP spokesperson—I am particularly giving voice to the concerns of my constituents. I represent one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse constituencies in the country. People who have written to me in recent weeks have not done so simply out of anger or emotion, and certainly not because they have read something that I have said in Hansard—that would be a novelty—but because of their own lived experiences. That is the frustration for me.
It would be one thing had the Government said this afternoon, “This is what we have done, but we recognise that there are big challenges, so this is what we still plan to do,” but their response to the protests of recent weeks has been tone deaf, for the most part, and actively irresponsible in other respects. It is regrettable that we do not seem to be seizing the moment, either in Government or as a Parliament, to reassure people throughout the country that we will leap on this moment. If we look throughout history, we see that sometimes events occur and there are big moments that can positively shift the dial in the most remarkable way. That is what we should be seeking to do here. I have actually seen a better response in that respect from the private sector than from our own Government. The private sector does not have a democratic accountability to the people—it has a commercial one and a profit motive; if companies are doing these things out of a sense of corporate social responsibility, that is good for them—but the Government have democratic accountability.
The Government’s efforts on equalities do not match the rhetoric we heard from the Minister. The Treasury has a particular leadership role to play, particularly on tackling economic inequalities that have an impact on people from a range of characteristics, for a range of reasons, and in different ways. With that in mind, I want to press new clause 5 to a vote.
Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.
I shall begin by addressing the SNP’s amendment 10. It is important to look carefully at the relationship between alcohol taxation and public health. We have seen in other areas of taxation, notably the sugar tax, the huge impact that decisions taken by the Treasury can have on public health and public health outcomes. It is long past time for us to look seriously and sensibly at whether more can be done to reduce the impact of alcohol and alcoholism on people’s lives and communities.
Turning to clause 79, I have had the opportunity to do a much deeper dive into some of the issues, not least because of the determined efforts of my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr Perkins). Anyone who has ever been lobbied by him will know that when it comes to standing up for his constituents and for businesses in his constituency, there is no more determined, stubborn and irrefutable representation than that which he provides. He has raised serious concerns about the impact of the clause on businesses in his constituency. I shall outline some of those concerns, in the hope that Ministers will consider their bearing on Government policy.
We understand perfectly what the Government are trying to achieve with clause 79. The clause amends the Alcoholic Liquor Duties Act 1979, to introduce sanctions for post duty point dilution of wine or made-wine, which, if carried out before the duty point, would have resulted in a higher amount of duty being payable. That change has, in effect, already come into force and we are legislating for it this morning. The change is perfectly understandable. It is designed to bring more revenue into the Treasury that would otherwise be, and is being, lost. I understand the Government’s position that post duty point dilution carries significant legal and revenue risk for the Exchequer.
The Wine and Spirit Trade Association is against the legislation, claiming it would put hundreds of jobs at risk and place more pressure on the industry. Recently, thanks to the initiative of my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield, I had the opportunity to speak to Global Brands, a business based in his constituency that makes VK and Hooch, among other products. We know that covid-19 is having a huge impact on the licensed trade industry and on alcohol sales in particular, affecting not only pubs but the producers of wines, spirits and other beverages. Global Brands is concerned that, because of the financial burden placed on its business by the clause, combined with the impact of covid-19, it expects to make 50% of its workforce redundant, putting 200 jobs at risk as a result of this change. If I can characterise our discussions in this way, it would be accurate to say that Global Brands accepts that this change is inevitable, and that the Treasury has a settled view on it, but it hopes that the Treasury might consider a 12-month delay in implementation—from April 2020 to April 2021—arguing that this would give it time to recover from the covid-19 shock, leaving it better able to absorb the change.
Global Brands makes other arguments that the Treasury may want to take into account. In particular, Global Brands sells what were commonly known as alcopops, a low alcohol by volume product—typically around 4% ABV. It is concerned that the impact of the change will be that, ironically, its low alcohol product would be taxed higher per unit of alcohol than much higher strength products, which flies in the face of the Government’s stated policy of discouraging high-strength alcohol and its impact on public health.
It is also worth highlighting that the Government have already announced their intention to conduct a wider review of alcohol taxation. I wonder whether it makes sense, from the point of view of business resilience and of giving companies such as Global Brands more time to cope with the covid-19 shock before absorbing this change, for the Treasury to consider this delay alongside the range of other issues that it will consider as part of its wider review of alcohol taxation. We might have been minded to table an amendment to probe the 12-month delay, but we were advised that such an amendment would not be in scope because the foundation resolution is clear about the date on which this change takes effect.
That is another reason why—I gently make this point again to Ministers—we feel strongly about the way in which the Treasury has restricted the scope of amendments and the debate by not introducing an amendment of the law resolution, as has been the case historically. As well as denying Opposition Members the opportunity to table broad, sweeping, political amendments to the Finance Bill, that also has practical implications. I impress on Ministers and the usual channels the need to reconsider that for future Finance Bills.
Finally, when my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield and I spoke to Global Brands just the other week, I was particularly impressed not just by the jobs and economic activity it provides in Chesterfield, but at the fact that its wider supply chain is virtually entirely British. Its ingredients, packaging and labelling are all derived from a British supply chain. I do wonder whether the Treasury has really thought through the timing of the change, the impact that it will have on businesses such as Global Brands, and where it might position such businesses in relation to their international competitors that are not providing jobs in this country and do not have a supply chain rooted here.
Given the unemployment statistics out today, we know that structural unemployment will become one of the biggest political issues and economic challenges in our country. Structural unemployment in Britain will become a feature of our life in a way that, frankly, it was not 10 years ago, in the wake of the financial crisis, and has not been for decades. The Government must do everything they can to protect jobs, which is why we have called today for them to come forward not just with fiscal measures in July, but a full-on, jobs-first Budget—because we are worried about the impact of covid-19 on unemployment.
The representations on clause 79 from Global Brands and from my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield remind us of the risk of the unintended consequences of Government policy. Given the impact on jobs and the supply chain and the fact that the Treasury is in any case preparing to undertake a review of alcohol taxation, I wonder whether the call for the Government to delay the measure by 12 months is not eminently reasonable—and whether they might come forward with their own change to the Bill on Report.
I am sure the Minister has seen the graph that sets pence per unit against alcohol by volume. To say that it looks as though it was drawn by a child with a crayon is being generous to children with crayons. Will she consider a wider review of the duty per unit of alcohol by product type, because at the moment it makes absolutely no sense?
I understand what the Minister says about closing a loophole and about the time that businesses have been given to prepare for the change, but does she not think that the impact of covid-19 has a bearing here? Given the representations that are being made about the impact of the double whammy, would she at least go away and consider the merits of a 12-month delay, and write to me and my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield to set out her thinking once she has had a chance to do that?
I am grateful to the Minister for being generous in giving way again. She will be pleased to hear that I will not labour the previous point.
As part of the Treasury’s review, will the Minister take into account the case for minimum unit pricing for alcohol? We have already heard the positive case from Scotland, and there is an active campaign for it. It would be useful for all of us involved in policy making if the Treasury review looked at the merits and the arguments against so that Parliament can make informed decisions.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, although this is a very interesting debate, we are here to talk about taxation, not public health policy on alcohol?
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If the hon. Member for Kensington does not think that there should be a relationship between public health and taxation, I am afraid she is really going to hate what I have to say on clause 80 and the Scottish National party amendment. For the same reason as before, I think there is a real case for looking at these issues in a joined-up way, and ensuring that our public health objectives are reinforced by the Treasury.
In its January 2020 Budget submission, the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, in partnership with Action on Smoking and Health, recommended that the minimum excise tax should be updated annually to ensure that the minimum tax for tobacco products is the rate due for products sold at the weighted average price. In the light of those representations, I wonder whether the Government will consider the advice of public health experts, and what consideration they have given to committing to updating the MET on an annual basis from the date of the passing of this legislation.
As the all-party parliamentary group on smoking and health has noted, the covid-19 crisis means that reducing tobacco-related health inequalities should be a priority, now and in the longer term, to improve population health and resilience to any future disease outbreaks. Differences in smoking prevalence and smoking-related diseases are an important factor in the differences in morbidity and mortality from covid-19. If we are not going to think seriously about some of these public health challenges in the middle of a public health crisis, when will we, frankly?
There has also been a rise during lockdown in people’s exposure to second-hand smoke in the home. Households with children are twice as likely to report second-hand smoke in the home. We have already heard about the Scottish Government’s determination in that respect, but the Government’s prevention Green Paper set the target of the UK being smoke-free by 2030, which is defined as a prevalence of 5% or less. If we are going to do that, we really have to commit to doing it and make changes across the board to support that important goal, which we across the House share.
The argument that public health and taxation are not intertwined does not hold water. It is not fashionable to be nice about George Osborne in today’s Conservative party—it is even less fashionable in the Labour party, but I already have a cross to bear in my own party—and his sugar tax was hugely controversial when it was introduced. I do not mind saying that as I sat watching the announcement in the Budget I was a big cynic, not least because I am generally in favour, as a point of principle, of progressive taxation. I worry about any new charges or levies that have flat implications for people and households with different levels of income.
Taxation by its nature ought to be progressive wherever possible, but the sugar tax has been shown, over the fullness of time, to have had a really positive impact on sugar consumption in this country. The evidence shows that a public health epidemic, which I think is what obesity is, particularly affects those from the poorest backgrounds. The same is probably true of smoking and its health consequences not just for smokers, but for the people—particularly children—who breathe the smoke around them.
The all-party parliamentary group on smoking and health, ASH, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, the Royal College of Physicians and many others are calling on the Government to adopt their road map to a smoke-free 2030. That would include the creation of a smoke-free 2030 fund, into which tobacco manufacturers would be legally required to give funds to finance the action needed to achieve the smoke-free 2030 goal.
What consideration have the Government given to the road map to a smoke-free 2030 and, in particular, the proposal that there should be some kind of levy on tobacco manufacturers? In the same way as the sugar tax was hypothecated to tackle obesity, what consideration have the Government given to introducing a hypothecated levy to take action to eliminate smoking?
Does my hon. Friend agree that as the economy comes out of the dislocation of coronavirus, we need to build a greener and cleaner economy? Incentivising the use of low-carbon cars is part of that, and clearly we cannot do so just through the tax system; we also need a structure of electric charging points. I am glad to say that my borough is one of the top boroughs in the country in that regard. As we look to build a greener economy, I commend this clause and the related clauses.
Following a previous theme, we support this approach to incentivising the use of greener and more environmentally friendly vehicles. It shows how decisions taken at the Treasury can support the public policy aims of other Departments and promote positive consumer change. Clearly, we have to do a lot more to ensure that people are using environmentally friendly vehicles, which produce fewer emissions and have a less detrimental impact on air quality and the wider environment than other vehicles do. I, in common with many stakeholders, welcome the reduced rate applied to alternatively fuelled light passenger vehicles, including hybrids and those powered by bioethanol and liquid petroleum gas.
I do not think that we need to dwell too long on this, but it is worth exploring a few points that were made during the Government’s consultation and to test some stakeholders’ arguments. Assertions are sometimes made, but it is important to revisit the arguments and see whether they stand up to the scrutiny of evidence. It will be interesting to hear the Treasury’s view on that.
There was a concern that the WLTP charging rates could lead to distortion ahead of April 2020, because consumers might bring forward purchasing decisions to avoid potential tax increases on new cars. Given that April 2020 has passed, it would be interesting to know whether such distortion has actually occurred. What assessment has the Treasury made of that?
On the environmental impact, some respondents stressed that company cars were more environmentally friendly than private cars. The argument goes that it is important to keep people in that market by adjusting company car taxation to reflect the lower impact. What analysis has the Treasury done of that claim? Does the Treasury think that that is a valid argument, or simply an assertion?
Finally, some concern was raised that under WLTP values, there could be an above-average increase in the reported CO2 emissions of cars with smaller engines, whereas cars with higher CO2 emissions would not be affected by the change to the same extent. How much does that argument hold water with the Minister?
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Clause 83 is obviously a welcome measure; we have heard from industry representatives that removing the VED surcharge for electric vehicles will encourage uptake. The RAC’s head of policy, Nicholas Lyes, states:
“Our research suggests that cost is one of the biggest barriers for drivers who want to switch to an electric vehicle and the steps taken”
by the Government
“will provide clarity and certainty for both consumers and manufacturers.”
I wonder whether the Government are looking at what more they can do to reduce the cost burden for people switching to electric vehicles. People make choices all the time about the purchase of new vehicles, and price sensitivity is one of the biggest aspects of that. If someone uses their car every day for regular journeys—to commute to and from work, for example—and has access to charging points at home, at work or in the vicinity, switching to an electric vehicle will make a real difference. It can be cost-effective as well as an environmentally friendly choice, particularly in the light of the clause.
However, for lots of people who do not commute regularly but have a family car for use at weekends and perhaps over the summer holidays, the financial choice is not always as straightforward. Although the environmental factors may be compelling and people might want to switch to an electric vehicle, the financial barrier is still too high. I wonder what more the Government can do, through industry support or other means, to further incentivise the switch to electric vehicles, as it would make a real difference.
On infrastructure, it is important that more is done to ensure that electric vehicle charging points are readily available for use—that is really an issue for the Department for Transport and local authorities, but at some point they will come knocking at the Treasury’s door. The Minister is smiling; I am sure that she is very familiar with that experience. I wonder how favourably she is looking on those arguments, because although progress is being made to expand electric charging points—the Mayor of London cares strongly about the issue, and I discussed it recently with the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham—much more progress can still be made in all parts of the country, so Treasury support would be very welcome.
This debate is particularly timely, given last night’s Adjournment debate, which was led by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy), who told the House that Hull is the capital of caravan manufacturing. Along with my hon. Friends the Members for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson) and for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner), she has been a doughty champion of the industry. That industry has been particularly hard hit by covid-19 because it relies so much on the leisure and tourism industry, which is still effectively shut down. Industry bodies and users were looking for this change, so I am happy to indicate that we support the clause.
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I beg to move amendment 12, in clause 85, page 72, line 33, after “supplies” insert “, including human breastmilk”.
This amendment would ensure that vehicles carrying human breastmilk would benefit from the exemption from Vehicle Excise Duty.
I am delighted to continue my personal journey to ensure that breastfeeding is mentioned in every possible place in this House. I am chair of the all-party group on infant feeding and inequalities, so I declare that interest up front.
The measure I seek to add to the Bill would cost the Government very little, if anything at all, but would send a very strong signal that the Government support and recognise breast milk banks across the UK. Sub-paragraph 2(b) of proposed new paragraph 6A to schedule 2 to the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 refers to
“medicines and other medical supplies”.
I am not quite sure whether that would capture breast milk. I seek clarification from the Minister on that, because I do not think it is clear enough, which was why I tabled the amendment.
Human breast milk banks exist across the UK. Some do not exist quite to the size and scale that we would like, so the amendment would help to encourage them that there is Government support for what they are doing. I mention the Human Milk Foundation, the Northwest Human Milk Bank, Hearts Milk Bank and Milk Bank Scotland, which is based in Glasgow and the one that I know best. Having spoken to Debbie Barnett, its donor milk bank co-ordinator, I know that Milk Bank Scotland does not have its own vehicles at the moment, but relies on the Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity volunteers, who transport the milk, after picking it up from donors, and take it out to those who need it. Having its own vehicles would be something for a future point, but the amendment would certainly support the milk bank, and others across the UK, in doing that.
Like blood, breast milk has to be properly processed, and there are procedures in place for doing so. Like blood, it needs special carriage to take it from donors to the milk banks for processing, and back out again. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guideline 93 on donor breast milk banks says that, when transporting milk to the milk bank, critical conditions for transport include
“temperature and time limit, to ensure that donor milk remains frozen during transport.”
The guideline also states that donor milk should be transported
“in secure, tamper-evident containers and packaging”
and that a range of procedures are in place for achieving that.
In chapter 33 of its guide to the quality and safety of tissues and cells for human application, on the distribution of and transport conditions for human milk, the European directorate for the quality of medicines states:
“During transport, milk should remain frozen and dry ice may be used for this purpose.
The use of validated, easily cleaned, insulated transport containers is recommended.
The transport procedure should be validated, and the temperature of the transport container monitored during transportation.”
All those measures are relatively similar to how blood and other blood products are transported around the UK, and would fit quite well with the medical courier vehicles exemption set out in the Bill. Many of these organisations are charities, and they would very much appreciate support in moving milk around the country.
I appeal to the Government to accept the amendment, which is uncontentious—and indisputable, really. Doing so would send a good signal that the UK Government support milk banks, the people across the UK who wish to use them, and the science behind them. They are particularly important in supporting premature babies in their earliest days. The World Health Organisation recently indicated the significance of breast milk during coronavirus, and that women should be supported whenever possible to feed their babies with human breast milk. Covid-19 is not present in breast milk, and the milk is therefore of huge benefit in supporting babies in their earliest days. I encourage Ministers to take on the amendment, if they can take on anything at all, and to show support for milk banks across the UK.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his questions. We fully appreciate the degree of concern that has been shown by the industry. As he will be aware, we are under an obligation to abide by EU judgments while we remain under the withdrawal agreement. The proposal underlines how seriously we take legal obligations that have been incurred in the EU withdrawal agreement, and that includes implementing the result of the European Court of Justice judgment.
It should be made clear that, during the transition period, if the Commission were not convinced that necessary steps had been taken to implement the judgement, it could, in principle, refer the case back to the European Court and ask it to levy fines for non-compliance. Those fines can be pretty substantial—up to €792,000 a day plus a potential one-off fine of at least €10 million—so we are very focused on communicating the seriousness of our intent in passing this enabling legislation. We do not believe that paying fines to the EU, especially as we have now left the EU, would be an effective or good use of taxpayers’ money, not least when we are making broader changes to reduce the entitlement to use red diesel more widely.
It is worth pointing out one other thing: we have not set an implementation date. The reason is that we recognise that it is important for Government to continue to work with users of private pleasure craft and with fuel suppliers to understand how they can implement the changes, precisely to make sure that those changes are as little onerous and as easy to enact as they can be. It is only once we have seen that consultation, gone through that process, reflected further on it and had a chance to consider how the legislation could be framed that we will be able to return to this issue.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 86 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Schedule 10 agreed to.
Rates of air passenger duty from 1 April 2021
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
The industry has stated that the proposed changes do not support it and its net zero plans. The news that the airline industry does not like air passenger duty will come as a surprise to no one. As we are debating air passenger duty under clause 87, and as Treasury Ministers declined to come to the House in response to an urgent question from the Chair of the Transport Committee, this is an opportunity for me to raise concerns directly with Treasury Ministers about support for the airline industry in the light of the challenges it faces because of covid-19.
The Minister said that the airline industry has benefited from Government support. In so far as any industry and employer has benefited from the general schemes made available—the job retention scheme, the self-employment income support scheme, the various business grants and loans that are available—that is true. However, back in March, the Chancellor referred to specific support for the aviation industry. It is now June and that support has not yet materialised. In fact, we do not even have any outline of what that support could entail or whether it will materialise at all.
Let us bear in mind that the industry contributes £22 billion a year to the British economy. It supports 230,000 jobs in aviation and throughout the manufacturing supply chain. If we take into account the broader sweep of jobs based around the supply chain, airports and travel, we are probably looking at something closer to 500,000 jobs.
Ministers, whether in the Treasury or the Department for Transport, ought to be embarrassed by the fact that, only a matter of weeks ago, a leading figure in the airline industry told the Transport Committee that the Government have been “asleep at the wheel”. That is not the way that the Treasury should approach a major industry. Of course, the airline industry has a lot to change in order to meet our country’s net zero ambitions, but I am sure we would all agree that we would prefer it if the aviation industry got to that point through research, innovation, sensible application of technology, change of consumer behaviour and a just transition to support the workforce as the industry changes, rather than because airlines go bust and people lose their jobs.
Break in Debate
We have heard representations from the chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, Michael Dugher, who will be known to many hon. Members across the House. The council is calling for reform of business rates and casino taxation. In the light of its representation, which, unsurprisingly, makes the industry case, and reflecting on some of our earlier conversations about alcohol duties, tobacco and smoking, what plans does the Treasury have, if any, to look at reform of gambling taxation generally and at the specific reforms Mr Dugher is calling for of business rates and casino taxation?
We have also heard strong representations from hon. Members across the House, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris) and the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith), about their work to highlight the impact that gambling has on people’s lives. Irresponsible gambling blights people’s lives. In the light of our conversation this morning about the positive role that Treasury decisions can play in promoting good public health outcomes, is the Treasury minded to look at those issues in the round as part of a wider review of the gaming duty and gambling taxation more generally?
Break in Debate
The Chancellor suggested that pollution taxes would increase as a result of his Budget, but Jayne Harrold, PwC’s UK environmental tax leader, said that under the 2020 Budget:
“There was not really an increase in pollution taxes as the Chancellor suggested with the climate change levy (CCL) changes announced. In fact, freezing CCL rates on electricity to level up the gas rate faster based on carbon emissions will reduce the amount of pollution tax applied. Extending climate change agreements for two years is equally minor good news for energy intensive businesses who get significant CCL reliefs.”
Can the Minister give us a sense of what more the Treasury will do to ensure that taxes from polluting behaviour increase?
I also want to probe on the green gas levy. The 2020 Budget promised the introduction of a green gas levy to help fund the use of greener fuels, to work in conjunction with the rise in the climate change levy. When and how do the Government plan to introduce the levy?
My question was specifically about the changes that the Government plan to make in relation to the green gas levy, which had been announced in the Budget. When and how do the Government plan to introduce the green gas levy?
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 89 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 90 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Rates of landfill tax
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Aside from paying tribute to my own local authority, the London Borough of Redbridge, and other local authorities for the efforts they have made to reduce the amount of waste going into landfill, there is only so much that can be said about an inflationary increase in landfill tax. I am happy for us to support the clause.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 91 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Carbon emissions tax
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Break in Debate
The clause and schedule that we are discussing make perfect sense in light of the impact of our exiting the European Union. I just have a few questions for the Minister.
This clause gives the Government the power to introduce a UK emissions trading scheme or carbon tax via a statutory instrument. As we have already heard from the Minister, and as we have heard from public statements on both sides of the channel this week, we will leave the EU emissions trading scheme on December 31 2020, when we leave the transition period.
I think the Minister alluded to the fact that so many of the questions that stakeholders have remain unanswered. I accept that this is just an enabling clause in anticipation of the further detail, and I appreciate that some of these questions may relate to responsibilities in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, so I will accept it if she sends me in that direction, but does she know when the Government plan to respond to chapters 1 to 3 of the consultation on the future of UK carbon pricing? Can she give assurances that there will be time to scrutinise Government proposals and implement a new scheme by the end of the year, bearing in mind that the proposals will have an impact on a wide range of organisations?
Touching on a theme I raised this morning about support for businesses as they undertake a transition to new frameworks, how do the Government intend to support UK companies during the transition, bearing in mind that, just as we are feeling the impact on Government business of disruption caused by the pandemic, many businesses are feeling exactly the same disruption? Is it realistic or desirable for companies across the country to be adapting to a new scheme that is not yet known and that may need to take force by the end of this year?
The Minister asked us to watch this space. We will certainly do that and wait to see how discussions progress. We look forward to seeing the details of future arrangements in the not-too-distant future.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 93 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.
International trade disputes
(Urgent Question): To ask the Minister for Women and Equalities if she will make a statement on the Public Health England review of disparities in risks and outcomes related to the covid-19 outbreak.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question. On 2 June, Public Health England published its long-awaited review of disparities in the risks and outcomes of covid-19 for BAME communities. The review confirms what we already know: racial and health inequalities amplify the risk of covid-19. It found that those from BAME backgrounds were more than twice as likely to die from covid-19 than white people, and that BAME healthcare workers are at particular risk of infection. These lives matter, and it is time for the Government to take action on the devastating impact that this virus has had on BAME communities.
Public Health England’s review fails to make a single recommendation on how to reduce those inequalities, protect workers on the front line, or save lives. That is despite the fact that its terms of reference include to “suggest recommendations” for further action. Will the Minister urgently explain why the review failed to do that? The Government have said that the Race Disparity Unit will publish recommendations on the findings from the review. When will those recommendations be published, alongside a plan for their implementation?
More than 1,000 individuals and organisations supplied evidence to the review. Many suggested that discrimination and racism increase the risk of covid-19 for BAME communities. Will the Minister explain why those views were not included in the review? Does she accept that structural racism has impacted the outcomes of covid-19? Does she agree that it is now time to address underlying socioeconomic inequalities facing BAME communities, and will she confirm that the Government will take action to do so? BAME workers on the frontline of this crisis are anxious for their lives. Will the Minister listen to Labour’s demands to call on all employers to risk assess their BAME workforce? Coronavirus thrives on inequality, and there is no more important time to tackle racial injustices in our society and save lives during this crisis. It is now up to the Government to take action and show their commitment that black lives matter.
The Race Disparity Unit is now in the Cabinet Office and at the heart of Government. My hon. Friend is right to say that it needs all the available data to make the correct recommendations. Will she reassure me, from the heart of Government, that this will not just be a matter for the Equalities Office or for the Department of Health and Social Care, but that it will include the Departments for Work and Pensions, for Transport and for Education? In all those areas we might expect to see real commitment to action that will make lives better for our BAME communities.
I wish to reassure Scotland’s BAME communities that the SNP takes this issue very seriously. On 20 May, the Scottish Government published Public Health Scotland’s preliminary analysis, which suggested that the proportion of BAME patients among those seriously ill with covid is no higher than the proportion in the Scottish population generally. However, the Scottish Government are treating those findings with caution, given the findings in England and Wales. Further work is under way to deepen understanding of the risk factors and improve analysis.
It was good to hear the Prime Minister agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford) yesterday that black lives matter. However, actions speak louder than words and some Government policies impact more strongly on BAME communities. What action will the UK Government take to review their no recourse to public funds policies, given that the Prime Minister revealed that he was unaware that thousands of people are locked out of available support due to those rules? In addition, why will the UK Government not lower the earnings threshold for statutory sick pay, which is forcing people in BAME communities out to work when it is not safe for them to be working?
Sensitivity to disproportionate risk is greater when the leadership of institutions includes representation of those most at risk. That is an issue for corporations such as Transport for London and, in particular, Govia Thameslink Railway, given what happened to Ms Mujinga. It is an issue for the NHS, where although there has historically been an over-representation of black and minority ethnic people among employees, they have been under-represented in the leadership of the NHS. In this instance, it is a case for the leadership of PHE, as I believe that not one of either the chief executive or his direct reports is drawn from the BAME communities. Will my hon. Friend look into how the Government can promote diversity in the leadership of our leading institutions?
In 2010, Professor Marmot published his report on how structural inequalities predispose the poorest to the worst health outcomes. We know how race inequality is entwined with that. A decade on, the inequalities have grown. The PHE report has now highlighted the fatal consequences of that. Even today, low-paid workers are exposed to the greatest infection risks, and lockdown easement is reinforcing that. Will the Minister pause the easement plan until a full mitigation plan is in place to address these inequalities?
As a former employer, and as a new employer in this place, I am acutely aware of the impact I can have on the welfare of my employees. Will my hon. Friend therefore say how important it is to engage with employers in the work that she does?
The Spanish flu epidemic led to huge, widescale social reform, and this report points to the need to do the same. Almost three quarters of health and social care staff who have died as a result of covid-19 are from black and ethnic minorities. Why does the review fail to mention the occupational discrimination faced by BME healthcare staff, which has been highlighted by the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing and needs urgent attention?
Belly Mujinga died tragically from coronavirus after being spat at while at work at Victoria station. She was at increased risk as a result of her ethnicity and underlying health conditions. Thousands of BAME frontline workers recognise the risks that Belly faced as the same risks that they continue to be exposed to, and her appalling death must lead to change. There must be justice for Belly Mujinga and her family by way of meaningful action to stop unnecessary BAME frontline deaths now. When will the Government instruct employers to put in place the comprehensive protections that are needed for all BAME staff and other vulnerable workers who need protection to stop them dying now?
The report identified age as the greatest disparity. Can the Minister assure me that she is conscious of the sacrifices that older people are making and that she will do what she can to ensure that older people are treated equally as far as possible?
As I said to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care earlier this week, it is one thing to say that black lives matter and quite another to force black people and people from BAME backgrounds out to work who have no choice other than to go to work because they have no recourse to public funds. No recourse to public funds is a racist policy. Will she abolish it now?